How Long to Get Used to Contact Lenses?

Are you new to contacts? Perhaps you just left your optometrist's office, and you're nagged by the feeling that something's in your eye. Maybe your eyes just feel tired and dry suddenly. Or, perhaps you're considering getting contacts, but you dread the thought of putting your finger in your eye. In any of these situations, you may be screaming to yourself, "How long does it take to get used to contact lenses!?" Well, here's your answer: it can be as fast as 1 day or take as long as 1 month.

Many people get used to wearing contacts right away. Who are these weirdos, right? No, it's true. Once you motivate yourself to use contacts for the long-haul, you'll find that they become just a part of your everyday routine. Of course, the actual time you take to adjust depends upon several factors, including what type of contacts you have, your age, and what type of eye problems you have. Once you're used to the lenses, you may even find that you prefer them to wearing your glasses. Why? Here are a few benefits people who wear contact lenses have noticed:

  • You don't have to worry about glasses slipping down your nose.
  • No smudgy lenses.
  • No worries about lenses fogging because of cold weather.
  • You don't get marks on the bridge of your nose.
  • You don't have to worry about leaving contacts behind or forgetting them when you leave the house.
  • No headaches from glasses that fit too tightly.

Different Kinds of Contact Lenses

You have a few different options when it comes to choosing contacts, and each variety has its own pros and cons.

  • Rigid Gas-permeable Lenses (RGP) — These are also called hard contacts, although they've improved considerably from early hard contact lenses. RGPs are inflexible and cannot flip inside out. One advantage of RGPs is that they can be less expensive since you can wear the same pair for a whole year. They also cannot be ripped. But, perhaps the biggest advantage is that they provide the sharpest vision of any lenses.

    Many people take longer to get used to rigid contacts than to soft. It will probably take about 2 weeks to become accustomed to these lenses but could take 3 weeks or more. You can ease into wearing them by starting at just a few hours of wear per day and increasing by an hour each day. RGPs must be taken out each night and washed in contact lens solution.

  • Soft Lenses —Unlike rigid contacts, soft lenses can flip inside out, which causes only a minor inconvenience if you're trying to figure out whether you're putting them in correctly. They can also rip because of the soft material they are made of; however, this is rare. The major advantage to soft lenses is that many people find them to be more comfortable than RGP's. In fact, you can probably get used to wearing these in 1 to 3 days, with most people taking no longer than 1 week. Soft lenses come in two primary varieties:
  • Daily Wear —These are lenses that you take out at the end of each day and wash in contact lens solution. They are the easiest soft lenses to get used to since you take them out after each day's wear. They come in varieties that can be single-day disposable, replaced every 1 to 2 weeks, or even replaced every 6 months to 1 year.
  • Extended Wear —Extended wear contacts are kept in overnight, usually for 1 week at a time. These may take a little more time to grow accustomed to because your eyes don't get a daily break from the lenses.

Extended Wear—Extended wear contacts are kept in overnight, usually for 1 week at a time. These may take a little more time to grow accustomed to because your eyes don't get a daily break from the lenses.

Different Ages

Your age is another factor that determines how quickly you adjust to your new lenses. People of any age can wear contacts. If a toddler can get used to wearing them, there's no reason you can't!

  • Kids — If you're thinking about getting contact lenses for your child, you'll be happy to know that children often adapt to contacts much easier than adults. They are less likely to develop dry eyes, one of the most frequent complaints from contact lens wearers. Kids who want contacts are often motivated to get used to them quickly, either for sports or appearance.
    Before you say yes, however, make sure your child is responsible enough to properly care for and clean the lenses. Poor lens hygiene can lead to eye infections and serious complications. A young child who follows directions well is an excellent candidate for contacts, and may even take better care of them than teens who think eye hygiene is not a big deal (thank goodness we outgrow that invincible phase!).
  • Adults — If you're coming to contacts as an adult, you have a fairly good chance of adjusting to them in an average amount of time. You should be able to follow the wear instructions given to you by your doctor and clean the lenses properly. These are the two most important steps to adjusting quickly to your lenses. Of course, everyone's eyes are different, so your individual adjustment period will depend upon your eyes, the environment in which you're wearing the lenses, your motivation, and the type of lenses you and your doctor choose.
  • Older Adults — Adults over the age of 65 are more prone to dry eyes than other age groups. This can make contact lens wear difficult. Dry eyes are often exacerbated by contact lenses, and dry eyes make the feel of the lens on the cornea more noticeable. Older adults may also have difficulty caring for lenses if they have conditions such as arthritis. Improper cleaning can cause eye disease, which requires a break from contacts while the eye heals.

Different Diagnoses

The most common eye conditions are myopia (nearsightedness), hyperopia (farsightedness), presbyopia (age-related farsightedness), and astigmatism (difficulty focusing caused by abnormal eye or lens shape). Although each of these conditions may require different kinds of contact lenses for their unique concerns, people with these problems generally take an average amount of time getting used to their lenses. Other conditions, however, pose special situations when it comes to adjusting to lenses:

  • Diabetes — Diabetics tend to be prone to more eye disorders than the general population. If you have diabetes, you should carefully monitor the health of your eyes. Diabetic retinopathy is a disorder that causes hemorrhaging of blood vessels in the eyes, and it can make contact lens wear impossible. High blood sugar also swells the eyeball, and most eye doctors will not prescribed lenses until blood sugar levels are stable. Remember, contacts must be fitted to the eye, so a fluctuating eye size will make the adjustment period much longer. In addition, diabetes can contribute to a greater risk of eye infections, so it will be especially important that you follow all of the cleaning and care instructions given to you by your doctor.
  • Cataracts — Contact lenses are a common solution for people diagnosed with cataracts. A cataract is when the natural lens inside your eye becomes cloudy, making your vision blurry. Many people elect to have cataract surgery to remove the impaired lens. In this case, you will probably need to wait at least a month before your post-surgical eye is ready to be fitted with a new contact lens.

No matter your age or prescription, contact lenses can make your life easier. They improve your sight without imposing frames on your peripheral vision like glasses do. And, you can wear them with normal swim goggles or sunglasses. Still feel like something's in your eye? Well, something is, but don't worry. You'll get used to it.

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